Spyfall: Time Travel Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 to 8 players
  • Variable gameplay length

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Memorization
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Self-confidence
  • Imagination
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Practice your skills of deduction and misdirection (through time!)

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

In the movie Thunderball, James Bond responds to a question asking what he does for a living. In typical cool Bond fashion, he says, “Oh, I travel – A sort of licensed troubleshooter.” So cool! Your Spy is also a traveling troubleshooter in this game, but this type of traveling is through time! The spy game never gets any easier or less dangerous, and now it takes our Spy to different moments in human history, both in the past and the future. Can you do your job and stay hidden, or will you become history yourself?

Spyfall: Time Travel, designed by Alexandr Ushan and published by Cryptozoic Entertainment, is comprised of 240 Location cards and 30 resealable bags (for all those cards). The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. Illustrations by Sergey DulinAnton Kvasovarov, and Uildrim are bright, colorful, and hilarious. Each depicting our favorite Spy in humorous situations during different periods in time. Not included with the game, but necessary to play, is a method to keep track of time. I suggest your smartphone.

Note: Spyfall: Time Travel is referred to as a “threequel” by the publishers. It can be played by itself and does not require the original game. However, it can be combined with Spyfall and Spyfall 2.

Prepping for the Mission

Note: Before playing this game, you must divide the cards into separate Location decks, putting each deck into a small ziplock bag or bind them together using a rubber band. The “Spy” card is always at the bottom of the deck and face-down. This is SUPER IMPORTANT, so don’t mess it up. This is also a time-consuming and monotonous job when you first open the game and are cleaning it up. Give this task to your least liked friend.

To set up the game, first determine as a group how many rounds should be played. The suggested number of rounds for first-time players is five, which is estimated to take about one hour to complete (figure about 10 minutes per round). It’s also suggested that before continuing that all players take a moment to review the middle spread of the rulebook that shows all the possible locations. This will help the players remember what locations could be in play. Totally optional, of course, and I tend to ignore this bit of advice.

Second, determine who will be the first dealer and give them all the unplayed location cards (which, in the case of the first round, is all of them), have them turn all the contents of the ziplock bags face-down (so no one can see the cards) and shuffle. Select one ziplock bag, and without showing any of the cards, the dealer takes several cards from the bottom equal to the number of players. Since the “Spy” card is always the bottom face-down card, it will always be part of the count. Any unused Location cards are returned to the ziplock bag WITHOUT revealing what they are (this includes the dealer). Again, SUPER IMPORTANT.

Third, the dealer shuffles the cards selected and deals one to each player (including themselves) face-down, careful not to let anyone see the cards passed around. Once dealt, all players pick up their card and view it, making DAMN SURE not to let any opponent see their card. They then place it back in front of them, face-down.

That’s it for the game set up. “Time” to hide in plain sight! Gods, I’m witty…

Understanding Your Role

Spyfall: Time Travel is, essentially, a game of Hide-and-Seek. There will always be one “Spy” in the group, at minimum hiding among the other players. The Spy does not want others to find them and goes to great lengths to “blend in.” The problem is, the Spy has no clue (at first) about their location, while everyone else does. The Spy must listen carefully to the clues being shared, attempting to discern what is factual and what is meant as a bluff to reveal the Spy. In contrast, all the other players have no clue who the Spy is other than knowing for certain it isn’t them. It’s their job to find the Spy by asking questions that they believe only a Non-Spy would know. In this case, all the Non-Spy characters know the location.

Remember: the Spy has no idea about the location, but everyone else does. If done correctly, the Non-Spy players can use this shared information to reveal who the Spy is by tricking them into answering a question anyone with a location card would know.

A Spy In Time

Spyfall: Time Travel is played in any number of rounds determined by the players when the game is set up. The duration of each round is also determined as a group. A round of gameplay is summarized here.

Step One: Start the Timer and Round

The dealer announces that the round has begun and starts whatever time-tracking device is available. They then ask one opponent a question, calling them by name (or pointing to them). For example, if I played with this guy named “Johnny Rev,” I’d say, “Hey, Johnny Rev,… ” followed by my question. Questions normally – but are not strictly required – to be based on the location shown on the Location card. Only one question is asked, and there is no follow-up.

The opponent’s response can take any form they like (verbal response, a head shake, a cold calculated smile, etc.), but lying is not a wise move. The answer must legitly address the question posed, but it should be clouded in mystery with double entendres encouraged if playing with adults. You don’t want to give away too much to the Spy, and a Spy doesn’t know much about the location. Be vague but not completely imprecise. Yes, this can be tricky.

Step Two: Keep Digging

The player who answered the question now gets to ask a question, but they cannot ask the opponent who just interrogated them. They could ask the same question, but doing so would be super silly. Instead, Non-Spy players should continue to ask questions that they don’t believe the Spy would know, and the Spy should ask questions based on what they think they know from listening in on the other players.

This continues, and players can ask others questions in any order they like as long as they don’t ask a question of the player who just asked them a question. Who the player asks a question of is based on suspicion most of the time.

Accusing Others

During a player’s turn, they may call for a vote. Doing so stops the clock and the round is temporarily paused. Each player may stop the clock once per round, meaning you cannot go and ask for a vote each and every time it is your turn… which would be silly… and annoying.

Votes are pretty simple. The player says something outlandish like, “BY THE GREAT BEARD OF NICHOLAS, I ACCUSE (insert the name of whomever here) OF BEING THE SPY! WHO IS WITH ME?!” At which point, all the other players raise their hand if they agree. Players DO NOT discuss the accusation, suggesting why they are making it. Just vote. Don’t argue.

A Spy can participate – and should – in the vote and can accuse the Non-Spies of being the Spy, too. The Spy also has the option of revealing themselves (by flipping over their card). If they do, they are now tasked with correctly identifying the Location in play. If they do, the round is over. If they don’t, whoops. Dead Spy.

Ending the Round and the Game

A round can end several ways, and the number of points earned depends on that outcome.

  • The Spy isn’t found during a vote at the end of the round due to the time of the round expiring
  • A Non-Spy is unanimously accused during a vote in the middle of the round
  • The Spy identifies the Location correctly
  • The Spy is discovered during a vote at the end of a round
  • The Spy is unanimously accused during a vote in the middle of the round
  • The Spy stops the game but doesn’t identify the location correctly

The points earned are as follows:

  • The Spy can earn a possible six total points per round:
    • two points for a victory
    • plus two bonus points if the Spy stops the game and guesses the location correctly
    • plus two bonus points if all the players unanimously accuse a Non-Spy player
  • The Non-Spies can earn a possible two total points per round:
    • one point for a victory
    • plus one bonus point to the Non-Spy player who initiated the successful accusation vote of the Spy

The next round is essentially the same as the original game setup, wherein a new location is selected at random and dealt to all the players.

The game ends when the final round comes to a close, and the “winner” is the player who has the most points.

Game Variants

There are game variants for two and three players, as well as a team-play variant. The game set up and distribution of the cards changes, but the gameplay remains the same.

To learn more about Spyfall: Time Travel, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks continued to enjoy the game, finding all of the different versions of Spyfall to be the same and always enjoyable. According to one Child Geek, “I still really like this game, and the cards always make me laugh. I think the hardest part about this game is listening, but everything else about it is a lot of fun.” Another Child Geek said, “Yeah! More Spyfall! You need more cards because you start to get to know all the places. New places mean new places for my spy to hide!” When the last Spy was found and the day was saved, all the Child Geeks voted and agreed – again – that Spyfall was a fantastic game. Spyfall: Time Travel was just additional tasty icing on an already delightful cake.

The Parent Geeks also didn’t change their minds. According to one Parent Geek, “The game is the same. Same rules. Same challenges. The same level of fun. I don’t think a player needs to buy this version versus another as they all play the same, and they are all equally fun. I do think people need to buy it only if they play the game a lot. You need new places to explore and discuss, or the game starts to feel old.” Another Parent Geek said, “Don’t make the mistake of thinking I dislike this game. I don’t! I love it! I don’t know why it exists other than just more great game time. I give it my full approval all the same.” And this Parent Geek was not alone. All the Parent Geeks gave Spyfall: Time Travel their full approval and enthusiastic endorsement.

The Gamer Geeks didn’t have much more to say about the game either. As one Gamer Geek put it, “It’s more of the same. Nothing has changed other than the locations. That’s fine, and it gives the game owner more bits to manage, I suppose. For the players, it means fresh locations to try to discuss. That’s fun. Seeing the same locations over and over again would get old.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Still has my vote for a great party game. Easiest review ever.” When all the votes were in, the Gamer Geeks gave this expansion that isn’t an expansion their full approval. To which none of the Gamer Geeks were surprised.

I don’t have much more to say about the game either. It’s – essentially – the same thing as Spyfall and Spyfall 2. If you enjoyed either of these, you’d enjoy Spyfall: Time Travel. But before you go off and rush to purchase it or decide you don’t need it, let’s discuss briefly the value it brings to the game as a whole.

Simply put, this game – while it stands on its own as a game you can play right out of the box – addresses a specific flaw. Each game is relatively quick, and many locations will be visited during a single gaming session. This results in the players – especially if they play the game a lot – seeing the same places repeatedly. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but it does open the game to the genuine possibility of feeling stale. It also means that players who enjoyed Spyfall will start to remember the locations. Of course, this makes the game harder, not less fun.

Should you get the game? If you already own another version of Spyfall, you should consider it only if you play your original game a good deal. More locations mean more chuckles and continuos opportunity to challenge your players to describe something no one is familiar with. If you don’t have any Spyfall games, you need to treat yourself and get in on the fun. Spyfall: Time Travel is a great entry and will entertain you and yours without question.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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